Buffalo Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret appears to be fine, we are in the holiday season, and I watched Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in “White Christmas” for the hundredth time, so I'm accentuating the positive and may not be my usual critical self.
This is my way of saying I really enjoyed listening to CBS play-by-play man Greg Gumbel and analysts Trent Green and Bruce Arians call the Buffalo Bills’ 24-12 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday.
Or maybe I was just happy that a new team was calling a Bills game after a steady diet of analysts Adam Archuleta (who I very much like), James Lofton and Brady Quinn working recent games of the now 5-10 local team.
The ageless Gumbel still has a terrific voice, and Green and Arians complement each other well, just not as well as Crosby and Kaye.
The combination of having a former Pro Bowl quarterback (Green) and former coach (Arians) assess the performance of Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen was a bonus and provided some interesting insights.
An ideal analyst would have Green’s voice and Arians’ insights.
However, Green seems energized by working with another analyst to bounce things off.
Arians somehow manages to be interesting and boring simultaneously. His insights are interesting, but his low-energy voice makes Jeb Bush seem exciting.
The analysts sharply noted the Patriots were using a big personnel package offensively to run the ball down the Bills' throats and were packing the line of scrimmage defensively to stop the Bills running game and dare them to throw against their secondary.
I was more interested in Arians’ insights involving Allen, who he said has to learn how to throw shorter check-down passes and not to float passes to the sideline that he might have gotten away with in college.
“That’s a college throw,” said Arians after one Allen interception. “Doesn’t work in the NFL.”
Arians and Green were aghast a couple of times that the Bills quarterback tried to throw to receivers who were defended by All-Pro and ex-Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore in one-on-one coverage and added that he will learn from the results.
Bills fans can only hope.
After listening to them, I wish Arians or Green would become Allen’s off-season quarterback coach.
Failing that, Allen should re-watch the CBS telecast and listen to what they had to say about his performance.
Now let’s go to some more highlights of the Bills’ semifinal broadcast of the season.
What’s Wrong With This Picture? Multiple people said they had trouble with their TV picture in the first half. I had no problem. CBS Sports said the problem wasn’t at its end.
You Gotta Billieve It: Near the end of the game, one of the announcers said it was hard to believe it was Zay Jones’ first catch. Actually, not so hard. He padded his statistics in the Bills final drive.
Statistic of the Day: CBS reported that the Patriots had more yards rushing in the first half than they have had in a game since 1991.
Patriot Fans Might Not Have Loved This: Near the end of the game, Arians said he’d like to see Allen take the final drive into the end zone. The Bills scored on the next play on a pass to Jones after Allen broke a tackle to get the pass off and the Pats broke a coverage.
Coaching Advice: Arians also noted that Allen has to learn to throw from the line of scrimmage to 10 yards down the field, but he loves to throw 30 to 50 yards downfield. “Get the ball out of your hands, get completions,” said Arians. “Every play can’t be a 25-yard chunk.”
Best Overhead Shot: Of course, as Bills fans pointed out on Twitter, Arians assumes that Bills receivers can get open on short routes. At one point, CBS ran an overhead shot in which none of the Bills receivers had any separation.
Rush to Judgment: Both analysts noted the Patriots were beating the Bills physically at the line of scrimmage as they were on pace for 350 yards rushing. They finished with 273.
Unequal Protection of the Rules: After Green noted that the Pats may have gotten away with a late hit on Allen, Arians said, “Not (for) rookies. One of the top quarterbacks that probably would be a penalty.”
Foot Fault: After a Patriot complained about a pass inference drawn by Bills receiver Deonte Thompson, Arians cracked : “That was no tangle on the feet, that was hands on the feet.”
Go for It: When Bills Coach Sean McDermott elected to go for it on a fourth down, trailing 14-0, both analysts agreed with the call. They seemed to be unaware that Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka is hurt, which may have played in the decision. The play failed. Later, they both supported McDermott’s decision to get the team’s first points on the board with a 35-yard field goal that cut the Patriots lead to 14-3. You could have argued a 5-9 team had nothing to lose by going for it again.
Lost in the Sun: After Allen threw an incompletion near the end zone intended for Bills receiver Robert Foster, who was covered by Gilmore, Green said, “It was just a learning curve for Allen. For me, I am going somewhere else.” Arians agreed. However, Foster could have made the catch. And Allen might have been thinking that Foster beat Gilmore earlier on a potential touchdown that he lost in the sun. “Great throw, great audible, lost in the sun,” said Arians.
More Evidence of the Possible End of the Dynasty? The Bills got a call. Against New England. After Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander intercepted a Tom Brady pass, Green quickly noted the linebacker was “getting away with a hook” on the receiver before he intercepted. The replay confirmed that. Who says the Bills never get a call?
What’s the More Honest Way of Putting It? When the Pats had 134 yards rushing early in the second quarter, Arians said: “It is an establishment of will.” Replied Green: “That’s a nice way of putting it Bruce.”
Hey Gronk! After Pats ran a third down draw in a long yardage situation, Arians noted that was odd. “In years past, where is Gronk down the seam?” After Gumbel noted that quarterbacks sometimes use secret codes to switch plays, they were laughing when Brady shouted “Hey, Gronk,” when he saw a matchup he liked.
Short-sighted: On Hauschka’s first field goal attempt, Gumbel said, “This one looks good,” before adding “but short.” Perhaps he had the same depth perception issue that the analysts thought Allen was dealing with when he missed an open receiver throwing into the sun.
Losing a 4-0 Vote in Your Favor: All three announcers and CBS officiating expert Gene Steratore thought the Patriots’ first touchdown run by Sony Michel actually was short of the goal line. The touchdown stood.
Sunny Remark: After the Bills’ Foster lost that potential touchdown in the sun, Green smartly asked Arians if the challenging sun would figure in the play call. The former Arizona coach said that it would.
Best Perspective: After the cameras caught Patriot fans celebrating late in the game, CBS went to a shot of Bills (and Sabres) owners Kim and Terry Pegula in their suite. Gumbel noted they understandably didn’t look to be in a festive mood, Arians said they were great owners, and Green optimistically said they have to be happy that the Bills have so many good young players. They also have to be happy that Jeanneret appears to be doing well. Happy Holidays!